The former U.S. ambassador to Panama denied telling Vice President George Bush as early as 1985 that Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega may have been involved in drug trafficking.

Everett Ellis Briggs, currently the ambassador to Honduras, said on Sunday there was not enough evidence against Noriega, Panama's de facto ruler, at that time."I could not have briefed the vice president on Noriega's drug-running, drug-smuggling or money-laundering activities because we simply did not have evidence of those activities at that time, and so any statement to the effect that I did brief him on such matters at that time simply is not true," Briggs told a news conference in Tegucigalpa.

The New York Times reported in its Sunday editions that Briggs had sent cables to the U.S. State Department about allegations of Noriega's drug dealings and that Briggs told Bush about the substance of those cables during a meeting on Dec. 16, 1985.

Bush, a Republican presidential candidate, has said he knew of no clear evidence that Noriega was involved in drugs until February 1988.